Daly tops final practice in Mosport
Continuing a high-speed duel that began last weekend when they qualified side-by-side on the front row for Round 11 at Road America, Star Mazda Championship leader Conor Daly did a last-lap flier in the final practice session for Round 12 at Mosport to top the time sheets and bump Connor De Phillippi down to second… but it was a close thing; Daly's lap of 1:15.413 (117.386 mph) in the #22 Juncos Racing / INDECK / The College Network / Merchant Services Ltd. Mazda was the fastest lap of the weekend so far, but only 2/10ths quicker than De Phillippi's 1:15.567 (117.007 mph) in the #11 JDC Motorsports / MAZDASPEED Motorsports / Skip Barber Mazda.
De Phillippi, the 2009 Skip Barber Pro Series champion is racing this season in Star Mazda with funding provided by the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder and scored his first Star Mazda podium finish at Road America. Interestingly, Daly was also the Skip Barber champion (in 2008) and drove last year with backing from the MAZDASPEED Ladder.
The third driver 'in the 15s' was Tristan Vautier, a two-race winner so far this season in the #38 Andersen Racing / Moulin TP / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais / Fontanel Mazda; he turned a lap of 1:15.763 (116.843 mph). In point of fact, the top-8 drivers in today's practice were all within a second of each other, an almost negligible gap on the high-speed, highly-technical 10-turn, 2.4-mile Mosport road course… although it did serve as a clear statement about championship leader Conor Daly's weekend strategy; although he needs finish only 12th or better this weekend to clinch the championship, he has no plans to play it safe.
The sole remaining driver in the field who has a chance to keep Daly from clinching the championship this weekend, Norwegian racer Anders 'The Viking' Krohn, turned the quick time in this morning's session, a 1:15.891 (116.646 mph), but dropped down to 6th-quick in the final session with a lap of 1:16.163 (116.230 mph) in his #47 Andersen Racing / Norse Cutting & Abandonment / Trallfa / Colosseum Mazda.
While Daly and Krohn are the only two drivers left in competition for the overall series championship, the top-8 drivers in the field are all still in the running for the inaugural VISITFLORIDA Cup, a 7-race championship-within-a-championship sponsored by the series' television partner, VISIT FLORIDA, the official tourism and marketing organization for the state of Florida. The live HDnet broadcasts and global syndication package made possible by the VISITFLORIDA partnership brings Star Mazda Championship racing to more than 150 million households worldwide. The prize, a custom 'dream vacation' provided by VISIT Florida goes to the driver scoring the most points in the seven races that are part of the Cup, including this weekend's Mobil 1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport and the season finale at the 13th Annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, September 29 – October 2. For information about where and when you can see the Mosport race (and other Star Mazda VISITFLORIDA races) on television, visit www.MazdaRacing.tv.
Conor Daly also leads this competition with 192 points scored in races, and Anders Krohn is in second with 179 VISITFLORIDA points. But with 90 points remaining to be won in the final two races, that leaves the top-17 drivers still in contention, including two of the four Canadians in the field. Young Quebec Racer Mikael Grenier is 4th in the overall championship and won from the pole in Round 8 at Autobahn driving the #17 Andersen Racing / Slow Cow / April Super Flow / NAPA Auto Parts / HS Telecom / Desharnais Mazda. Local driver, David Ostella, from Maple, Ontario is 10th in the championship, but has two top-4 and six-top-10 finishes in the #16 AIM Autosport / GP Global Precast Mazda.
Mikhail Goikhberg, a 22 year-old Russian racer from St. Petersburg now living in Toronto, is a full-time racer in the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda and is making his Star Mazda debut with JDC Motorsports, which also fields his USF2000 effort. Zack Meyer, a Canadian karting champion and Skip Barber racer is making his debut alongside David Ostella driving for AIM Autosport, the only Canadian team currently competing in the series.
Qualifying for the race takes place at 8:00 am Saturday, August 28, with the traditional Star Mazda F1-style 'standing start' getting the green light at 1:15 pm Saturday afternoon.